According to a study from The Lancet, the global fertility rate is dropping and the world’s population is expected to be cut in half by 2100. This will be felt in nearly every country and on every continent. What’s even more concerning is that the number of elderly people will far outnumber the young, which will have a huge impact on the global economy. This is what you need to know.
Why is the Global Fertility Rate Dropping?
In the 1950s, the average woman was giving birth to 4.7 children. In 2017, that number was just 2.4. (1) The fertility rate should not drop below 2.1 children per woman in a population, with the 0.1 there to account for the fact that not every child that is born makes it to adulthood. (1) If it goes below, populations will start declining. (1, 2, 3)
By 2100, experts predict that the fertility rate will be 1.7 at best. (1)
The Impact of a Decreased Fertility Rate
In many ways, a lower population can be a good thing, particularly for the environment. After all, the fewer people there are on the planet, the less garbage they will produce, and the lower their collective carbon footprint will be.
The downside to all of this is the economic impact. The population is decreasing because women are having fewer and fewer children, and not because of increased mortality rates. This means that the population of elderly people will be greater than younger generations, which leaves many questions (1, 2, 3):
- Who will pay taxes?
- How will health care for our elderly population be adequately funded?
- Who will work? Will people be able to retire as young, if at all?
It is predicted that the number of people under the age of five will fall from 681 million in 2017 to 401 million in 2100. (1) On the contrary, the number of people over 80 will balloon from 141 million in 2017 to 866 million in 2100. (1)
A smaller population of younger people wouldn’t be such a big problem, nut one where the majority are elderly and in need of care? That is a big problem.
The Most Affected Countries
While every country will see big changes, 23 countries will be more affected than the others, with their populations expected to be cut in half. Included in those places are (1, 2, 3):
- South Korea
Currently, China is the most densely populated country, but by 2100 India is set to take its place. (1)
Why Are Fertility Rates Dropping?
In short: women are having fewer children. This is due to a number of reasons, all of which is actually a good thing (1, 2, 3):
- Women have better access to education
- Women are having careers
- Women have better access to contraception
- Women have more control over their bodies and their lives (in some countries)
This is a huge success for women’s rights, and of course, the answer to the fertility problem isn’t in taking those rights away. (1, 2, 3)
What is the Solution?
There are a couple of ways to help improve this problem without taking away women’s rights.
First of all, countries around the world can make having a family and having a career a possibility. Some examples of this include (1, 2, 3):
- Universal free childcare
- More work-from-home opportunities, particularly for parents
- Low-cost and/or free post-secondary education
- A school and workday that align better in terms of timing and length
- Better access to paid maternity and paternity leaves
- More regulations and systems in place to benefit families
Second of all, migration and the opening of borders to immigrants will help spread people more evenly around the world. In contrast to the rest of the world, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to triple by 2100, reaching over three billion people. As those people migrate and spread across the globe, they will help to bolster the populations of the countries they move to. (1, 2, 3)
This, of course, means that there will be greater populations of African peoples in non-African countries. There needs to be a global recognition and eradication of the system racism that exists in most countries in order for everyone to have equal access and opportunity wherever they go. (1, 2, 3)
The distribution of working-age people will be crucial to the success of the human race. This means that global politics will have to see a shift, immigration laws will have to change, and a better way of recognizing people’s credentials so that they can continue to work in their chosen field in their new country will need to be sorted out. (1, 2, 3)
The Bottom Line
If these solutions aren’t put in place, eventually, the human race will cease to exist. This will take several centuries, of course, but if we don’t tackle this problem early, it will be much harder to turn around in the future. (1, 2, 3)
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